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In the hoof prints of history – following the Coronation sites in 1953

Date Sent:   15 June 1953     

Sender: Alan 

Recipient: Mr & Mrs A Gilliver, 47 Clarges St, Bulwell, Nottingham 

Transcript: Having a lovely time here with glorious weather.  It is very tiring seeing all the coronation sites, but quite interesting. Alan. 

Hand written text on a postcard

Prudently Alan used up his old stamps before embarking on the new reign.  So, George VI’s profile is partially obscured by the patriotic franking celebrating his daughter’s Coronation of 2 June 1953.  

Coronations, while joyous occasions have a sober side depending as they do on mortality. George VI died in February 1952, and Britain was still emerging from wartime privations.  Bread and clothing rationing ended in 1948 and 1949 respectively and February 1953 saw sweets liberated, but general food rationing continued until July 1954. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was a public holiday and chance for 1953 Britain to celebrate. Her namesake Elizabeth Tudor held a special place in popular memory, and optimists looked for the dawning of a new Elizabethan golden age. Unfortunately, May’s sunshine temporarily departed, and Tuesday 2 June was damp and chill. Crowds thronged the route and the whole ceremony was televised.  For many it was the first-time television sets entered their home and the age of the gogglebox dawned.   

A view of a crowded Streen overlooing the Twoer of London

Celebrations extended across the Commonwealth, and Alan was not alone in visiting London afterwards to view the coronation sites for himself.  While Elizabeth left from Buckingham Place, for over three hundred years her predecessors had set for Westminster Abbey from the Tower.  Charles II was the last to observe this custom in 1660. Charles had a point to make after 11 years of the Interregnum, and subsequently placed the regalia and crowns on public display at the Tower – at a price. Continuing the tradition, Alan would have paid separately to view the display in the Wakefield Tower. 

He chose a familiar view of the Tower looking east across Tower Hill towards Tower Bridge for his souvenir postcard. This “real photograph” appears contemporary, double-decker London buses and trucks having replaced the horse-drawn vehicles of earlier images. There are at least two other versions of this card – a decoratively-edged black and white one and a coloured one posted in 1956. Perhaps keen students of London buses can find enough detail to narrow down the original date – or advertising enthusiasts? Two of the buses carry adverts for ‘Grant’s Whisky’. Alan was not scrimping in choosing a black and white card, it was still very much the medium of the day – and to be honest, the colour version of the card is best described as garish. 

69 years later details of the celebrations planned to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee are just being released. Perhaps Alan will be able to make a return visit? 

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